Look around at your peaceful day today. As I am writing this I am sitting on the couch right next to the front window looking out at the bright blue sky and cloud topped mountains across the valley. My biggest problem right now is the dishes waiting to be washed. There are places in the world where all is not peace and quiet, but I bet if you have the time to sit back and read this you are not in one of them.
Now zoom back in time to 70 years and a few days ago to the 30th July 1943, and plonk yourself on Mount Tambu in Papua New Guinea. It is hot and muddy, there are disease-carrying bugs trying to eat you and there are a lot of people out there who want to kill you.
It is World War II and, if you are an Aussie on that mountain that day, things could be worse as you aren’t supposed to be fighting. I don’t expect that the Diggers were just sitting back happily watching the Americans fighting though, and one solider in particular certainly didn’t.
Leslie ‘Bull’ Allen* was one of the Australian stretcher bearers there that day, and when the American medics were killed helping one of their wounded he went out into the fray to bring back whoever he could.
One at a time he slung the wounded over his shoulder and carried them back to safety through sniper, machine gun and mortar fire.
Soldiers were watching the snipers aiming at him on each trip and taking bets as to whether he would return.
By the time he was too exhausted to continue he had carried at least 12 American soldiers to safety and his clothes and hat were holed by bullets that had somehow managed to miss his body.
The United States awarded him the Silver Star, their highest award for a non-American, and he was sent many letters of congratulation, including one from Eleanor Roosevelt, who he remained in contact with.
Bull Allen has both a canteen at Puckapunyal and the Bull Allen bar at the Ballarat RSL** named after him, but strangely was never awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia’s highest award for acts of bravery in wartime. Historians are now calling for his amazing bravery to be recognized (ABC News) and rightly so.
This wonderful short film tells his story with photos, war footage and the help of his family.
* An excellent biography link. He did quartz crushing demonstrations at Sovereign Hill! Now there are a few of you who are thinking “Wow, I might have met him!” aren’t there? I’m thinking the same thing. 😀
** RSL= Returned and Services League, the local RSL is an Aussie institution and where everyone repairs to after their respective Dawn Services on ANZAC Day for a drink and a game of two-up.